Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The 5 Best and 5 Worst Foods For Sleep

For many, the secret to getting a good night’s sleep comes down to two things–stress and diet. It’s important to not overload your digestive system two or less hours before you sleep. Including one or two of these sleep promoting foods will help to relax tense muscles, quiet buzzing minds, and/or get calming, sleep-inducing hormones — serotonin and melatonin — flowing. On the flip side, there’s five foods to stay away from.  

The Five Best

1. Cherries – Fresh, dried and tart cherries are one of the only natural food sources of melatonin, the chemical that controls the body’s internal clock to regulate sleep. Researchers who tested tart cherries and found high levels of melatonin recommend eating them an hour before bedtime or before a trip when you want to sleep on the plane.  

2. Almonds – A handful of these heart-healthy nuts can send you snoozing because they contain both tryptophan and a nice dose of muscle-relaxing magnesium. They have the added benefit of supplying proteins that can help maintain a stable blood sugar level while sleeping, and help promote sleep by switching you from your alert adrenaline cycle to your rest-and-digest cycle. Try this bedtime snack: Have a tablespoon of almond butter or a 1-ounce portion of almonds to help your body relax.  

3. Honey – Drizzle a little in your herbal tea. Lots of sugar is stimulating, but a little glucose tells your brain to turn off orexin, a recently discovered neurotransmitter that’s linked to alertness. Honey can promote relaxation and help ease you to sleep at night. The natural sugar found in honey raises our insulin slightly and allows tryptophan, to enter our brains more easily. Taking a spoonful of honey before bed can help you get restful sleep.  

4. Flaxseeds – When life goes awry, and feeling down is keeping you up, try sprinkling 2 tablespoons of these healthy little seeds on your bedtime oatmeal. They’re rich in omega-3 fatty acids, a natural mood lifter. Many people notice that just 1 tablespoon of flaxseed oil 1 hour before bed promotes a deeper sleep. Generally, fatty acids are involved in initiating and maintaining sleep. There are different categories of fatty acids that we need: omega-3, omega-6, and omega-9 fatty acids. All three types of fatty acids play a role in sleep. Flax oil is a rich source of all three of them.  

5. Bananas – They’re practically a sleeping pill in a peel. Potassium and magnesium are natural muscle relaxants, and bananas are a good source of both. They also contain the amino acid L-tryptophan, which gets converted to 5-HTP in the brain. The 5-HTP in turn is converted to serotonin (a relaxing neurotransmitter) and melatonin.

 The Five Worst

1. Alcohol – Having a drink (or two) is one way to nod off more quickly, but how restful is an alcohol-induced slumber? While a nightcap may get you to doze off, you’re more likely to wake up during the night and may not feel as rested following your sleep. So although that glass of wine may help you get to sleep faster, the effect of consolidating sleep in the first half of the night is offset by having more disrupted sleep in the second half of the night which creates sleep deprivation in the long-term.  

2. Spicy Foods – Research has shown over the years that a spicy meal at night can indeed lead to poor sleep. The most direct study to show this was published in The International Journal of Psychophysiology by a team of Australian researchers. On the nights that included spicy meals, there were marked changes in the subjects’ sleep patterns. They spent less time in both the light phase of sleep known as Stage 2 and the deep, slow-wave Stages 3 and 4. All of which meant that they experienced less sleep over all and took longer to drift off.  

3. Fatty Foods – Research shows that people who often eat high-fat foods not only gain weight, they also experience a disruption of their sleep cycles. A heavy meal activates digestion, which can lead to nighttime trips to the bathroom. People who eat a lot of fatty foods may also have more difficulty sleeping. There seems to be a strong connection between the circadian processes, sleep and metabolism relating to the processing of fatty foods such as high-fat dairy, fried foods and fatty meats.  

4. Coffee – It’s no surprise that an evening cup of coffee might disrupt your sleep. Even moderate caffeine can cause sleep disturbances. But don’t forget about less obvious caffeine sources, like, cola, tea, and decaffeinated coffee. For better sleep, cut all caffeine from your diet four to six hours before bedtime.

 5. Dark Chocolate – Besides caffeine, chocolate also contains theobromine, another stimulant that can increase heart rate and sleeplessness. While dark chocolate is excellent for your health, try to avoid ingesting any chocolate 5 hours or less before bed.

Scientists discover what’s killing the bees and it’s worse than you thought

As you may have heard, the mysterious mass die-off of honey bees that pollinate $30 billion worth of crops in the US has so decimated America’s apis mellifera population that one bad winter could leave fields fallow. Now, a new study has pinpointed some of the probable causes of bee deaths and the rather scary results show that averting beemageddon will be much more difficult than previously thought.

Scientists had struggled to find the trigger for so-called Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) that has wiped out an estimated 10 million beehives, worth $2 billion, over the past six years. Suspects have included pesticides, disease-bearing parasites and poor nutrition. But in a first-of-its-kind study published earlier this month in the journal PLOS ONE, scientists at the University of Maryland and the US Department of Agriculture have identified a witch’s brew of pesticides and fungicides contaminating pollen that bees collect to feed their hives. The findings break new ground on why large numbers of bees are dying though they do not identify the specific cause of CCD, where an entire beehive dies at once.

When researchers collected pollen from hives on the east coast pollinating cranberry, watermelon and other crops and fed it to healthy bees, those bees showed a significant decline in their ability to resist infection by a parasite called Nosema ceranae. The parasite has been implicated in Colony Collapse Disorder though scientists took pains to point out that their findings do not directly link the pesticides to CCD. The pollen was contaminated on average with nine different pesticides and fungicides though scientists discovered 21 agricultural chemicals in one sample. Scientists identified eight ag chemicals associated with increased risk of infection by the parasite.

Most disturbing, bees that ate pollen contaminated with fungicides were three times as likely to be infected by the parasite. Widely used, fungicides had been thought to be harmless for bees as they’re designed to kill fungus, not insects, on crops like apples.

“There’s growing evidence that fungicides may be affecting the bees on their own and I think what it highlights is a need to reassess how we label these agricultural chemicals,” Dennis vanEngelsdorp, the study’s lead author, told Quartz.

Labels on pesticides warn farmers not to spray when pollinating bees are in the vicinity but such precautions have not applied to fungicides.

Bee populations are so low in the US that it now takes 60% of the country’s surviving colonies just to pollinate one California crop, almonds. And that’s not just a west coast problem—California supplies 80% of the world’s almonds, a market worth $4 billion.

In recent years, a class of chemicals called neonicotinoids has been linked to bee deaths and in April regulators banned the use of the pesticide for two years in Europe where bee populations have also plummeted. But vanEngelsdorp, an assistant research scientist at the University of Maryland, says the new study shows that the interaction of multiple pesticides is affecting bee health.

“The pesticide issue in itself is much more complex than we have led to be believe,” he says. “It’s a lot more complicated than just one product, which means of course the solution does not lie in just banning one class of product.”

The study found another complication in efforts to save the bees: US honey bees, which are descendants of European bees, do not bring home pollen from native North American crops but collect bee chow from nearby weeds and wildflowers. That pollen, however, was also contaminated with pesticides even though those plants were not the target of spraying.

“It’s not clear whether the pesticides are drifting over to those plants but we need take a new look at agricultural spraying practices,” says vanEngelsdorp.
[via Quartz]

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The Healthful Vegan Diet

Eat plants. Those two words are the best things I’ve learned about diet, and if you stick to that, you’re likely be pretty healthy.

That said, eating a vegan diet (no animal products) doesn’t necessarily equate to a healthy diet, despite what many believe.

Yes, vegans on average are healthier and leaner than the average person. But that’s an average — there are unhealthy vegans.

How is that possible? You can eat lots of sweets, fried foods, processed foods, foods with white flour (breads, cakes, cookies, pasta), and beer, and still be a vegan. And not super healthy.

Since going vegan, I’ve slowly transitioned my diet from the convenient vegan foods (prepared plant “meats”, pizzas, beer, delicious vegan sweets), to something much healthier.

I’d like to share that with you today.

Amazing Plant Foods

Here’s what I suggest eating:
  • Green veggies: The king of healthy plant food. Kale, broccoli, darker lettuces, chard, collard greens, mustard greens, arugula, green beans. Eat as much of these as you can, every day. Several servings.
  • Other veggies: Orange and red and yellow veggies like carrots and red bell peppers and squash and tomatoes and pumpkin and sweet potatoes, along with all kinds of mushrooms, onions and garlic, cauliflower. Pile these on, throw them in stir-fries, put them in soups!
  • Plant proteins: Despite what many people believe, protein is easy to get on a vegan diet. Beans of all kinds (black beans, kidney beans, garbanzo beans, white beans, pinto beans), lentils, soy beans (edamame, tempeh and tofu — and no, soy isn’t dangerous). Raw nuts like almonds and walnuts. Seeds like flaxseeds, hemp, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds. I eat all these.
  • Fruits: Yum. These guys are my saviors, because I don’t eat many sweets anymore. Berries and pomegranates are the king of this category, but apples, oranges, grapes, mangoes, kiwi fruit, bananas, peaches, apricots, papayas, pears and so forth are all amazing. Don’t be afraid of fruits.
  • Good fats: Don’t be afraid of fats, but just go for the good ones and minimize trans and saturated fats. If you eat saturated fats, get them from plants (coconuts). My favorite fats: nuts of all kinds, avocados, ground flaxseeds, olive and canola oil. I also take a vegan EPA-DHA supplement (like fish oil, but from algae instead) for extra health — brain, joint, heart health, among other good benefits.
  • Whole grains: Many people these days who try to be healthy are afraid of grains. I have not seen any good scientific evidence that they’re bad for you, but lots that they’re good. However, avoid white flour, and in fact most flour should be minimized altogether. If you’re going to eat bread, try flourless sprouted grain breads. Other good choices: quinoa (actually a seed, not a grain), brown rice, amaranth, millet, steel-cut oats. If you’re allergic or intolerant to gluten, of course avoid gluten, but most people can eat gluten just fine.
  • Others: I drink a glass or two of red wine every day, along with at least a couple glasses of tea. And lots of water. Some good spices to add to your dishes: cinnamon, tumeric, cayenne.
Special notes for full vegans: If you’re on an all-vegan diet for long, you’ll want to ensure that you’re getting Vitamin B12, either from a vegan supplement or through fortified foods like soymilk or fortified nutritional yeast. Iron, calcium and Vitamin D are other things to look out for, but it’s not hard to figure out. I highly recommend Vegan For Life for more on these nutritional requirements, and the blogs by the two authors of that book: nutritionists Ginny Messina and Jack Norris.

Stuff to Eat Less Of

I don’t like to “villainize” any foods, because we shouldn’t be afraid of foods or develop some kind of complex. So all foods are fine in small bits, but unfortunately most people eat them all the time.

Here’s what you should keep to a minimum:
  • Animal products (for health but mostly ethical reasons) – meat, poultry, eggs, dairy
  • Fried foods
  • White flour, white rice, white potatoes
  • Trans fats of any kind
  • Sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, other sweeteners, especially artificial sweeteners
  • Chemicals and weird ingredients that aren’t really food

What a Healthy Vegan Diet Looks Like

So how do you put this all together into an everyday eating plan? Well, there are countless variations, but I’ll share some things I like to eat:
  • Breakfast: My go-to breakfast at the moment is Ezekiel Flax Sprouted Whole Grain Cereal, with soymilk, raw almonds and walnuts, berries and ground flaxseeds. Other breakfasts I like: scrambled tofu and chock-full oatmeal.
  • Lunch & Dinner: Lately I’ve been eating either cubed tempeh or black beans, cooked with garlic/onions, olive oil, diced carrots, diced tomatoes, mushrooms, and any kind of greens I can get, all stir-fried together with salt, pepper and sometimes chili powder or other spices. Other good choices: three-bean chili, lentil curry with veggies, or just a big salad with greens, nuts, fruits, seeds and a balsamic vinaigrette. The above-mentioned scrambled tofu also works. When in doubt, follow this formula: beans (including lentils, tempeh, tofu), whole grain (e.g. brown rice or quinoa or sprouted grains bread) and veggies (greens and others), along with a good fat like olive or canola oil or nuts or avocados.
  • Other: I snack on nuts and fruits, or veggies with hummus. As mentioned, I also drink unsweetened tea, red wine and water.
That’s how my diet normally looks, though I will make conscious exceptions on occasion. Lately I’ve been making fewer exceptions and feeling healthier than ever!

The Incredible Benefits

Since turning vegetarian then vegan, I’ve been unbelievably healthy — I feel strong and alive, and I almost never get sick. Neither do my wife and kids, and in fact my daughter’s strong asthma-related attacks are now gone. If you do it right, a plant diet can do wonders for your health.

The benefits of a healthful vegan diet are too many to name in one post, but they are many and they’re powerful. I’ll point you to a few resources here — please do check them out:

I highly recommend the book Super Immunity by Dr. Joel Fuhrman — it spells out the science behind the micronutrients in plant food, and how they can help prevent important diseases from flu to heart disease to cancers of all kinds. It’s amazing.

I also recommend two videos: Forks Over Knives and More Than an Apple a Day: Preventing Our Most Common Diseases, which you can watch here:

How to Do It

What if your diet includes a lot of the “Stuff to Eat Less Of” right now, and you think you just can’t give it up? Try going a week without one of these. It’s not as hard as you think. Do one at a time, and if the first week isn’t bad, try two or three weeks, or a month. After a month or so, you’ll find you won’t miss it at all. Then try another.

You’d be amazed at how your taste buds can change for the better pretty quickly. The voice that says, “I could never give up …” isn’t really true.

If you’d like to try a healthful vegan diet for a week, check out my collaborative site, the 7-Day Vegan Challenge.

[via Zen Habits]

Friday, July 26, 2013

5 Ways to Curb Food Waste At Home

We’re excited to see an influx of new devices designed to eliminate food waste. From student design projects to crowd-funded food savers to apps that help manage expiration dates, there are all sorts of high tech options on the horizon that hold promise for food waste crusaders. Read on for a round-up of food waste innovations, plus some common sense tips to help you reduce food waste today!

1. Keep Ethylene in Check.

Tired of that sinking feeling when you reach in the fruit bowl for the last tomato, only to find it’s molded on the bottom? Designer Jagjit Chodha has designed a fruit bowl that prevents food waste by sensing ethylene levels. (Increasing ethylene levels indicate that fruit is starting to go bad.) The bowl lights up to alert you when levels increase, which means that your fruit is about to get moldy and you should eat it soon. Choda designed and showcased the bowl as part of the Made In Brunel Show at London’s Brunel University. The fruit bowl is not yet in production, but you can help slow the ripening of your produce by storing ethylene-producing items separate from ethylene-sensitive items. Here’s a handy list.

2. Vacuum-Seal Your Food.

Vacuum sealing your food may seem like a cumbersome step, but it can help your food last up to five times longer than other storage methods. VacuVita is a new vacuum-sealing system that has been running a strong crowd-funding campaign on IndieGoGo. Though there have been other vacuum-sealing products on the market for years, like FoodSaver and TightVac products, VacuVita’s sleek design and sustainable objective seem to have hit a nerve with the public. (With only a few days left of their campaign earlier this week, the brand had raised over $200,000, well over their $75,000 goal.) VacuVita uses small, reusable containers instead of plastic bags that feature a futuristic led light and soft bleep sound to let you know the food was successfully vacuum sealed. The brand offers a variety of colors and sizes, though they are not in full production yet.

3. Try a Food-Waste App.

Fridge Pal is an app designed, in simplest terms, to help you keep track of what is in your refrigerator. Remember the chives you found in a puddle at the back of your fridge last week? The sip of rotten milk you took as a child? The two bottles of red wine vinegar you now own because you forgot you already had red wine vinegar? Fridge Pal is designed to stop that from happening. You simply scan the bar codes of your groceries or add items manually. According to PureWow’s coverage of the app, “Fridge Pal will then add those items to a virtual fridge, freezer or pantry so you can see at a glance what you have in the house.” The expiration date of each item is displayed right next to it, and the app even sends you reminders when an item is about to expire. The app also provides recipes based on what you already have and helps you to create your shopping list. It even reminds you if you have left the grocery store without one of the items on your list.

4. Make a Low-Tech List.

It’s not going to personally remind you that you forgot the asparagus as you’re walking out of the grocery store, but a chalkboard or marker board mounted on the fridge can be a cheap, simple way of keeping track of what you have in there. Keep a list of the fresh produce, meat and dairy in order of when it was purchased (or write the expiration date next to it). This way, you can just look at the list to see what needs to be used up without ransacking the fridge every time you need to make dinner or a grocery list. Once something is used up, just erase it!

5. Bookmark This Website.

The Still Tasty website is a great resource for looking up nearly any food you can think of to find out the best way to store it and how long it will last before spoiling. The site has all sorts of helpful information—did you know milk should be stored in the main area of the fridge, not the door, and it can be frozen?—but its stand-out feature allows you to type in any food to receive a full run down on how to make that food last as long as possible, if you can freeze it, when it expires, etc. Still Tasty also has an app with similar features to Fridge Pal.

All of these items are part of a trend encouraging us to eliminate food waste. Have vacuum-sealed containers been around for a while? Yes. Have some families been keeping close track of what’s in their refrigerator? Sure. But, a focus on our nation’s food waste problem is encouraging more people to curb their food waste and bringing in new inventors and start-ups looking to build upon what our grandmothers always told us: Don’t waste your food.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Natural Remedies First Aid Kit Checklist

1. Valerian Tincture

The sedative properties of valerian make it useful for relieving anxiety, insomnia and tension; it may also provide mild pain relief.

2. Eucalyptus Essential Oil

A potent antibiotic and antiviral, eucalyptus is excellent for treating colds and sinus infections when used as a steam inhalation.

3. Witch Hazel Extract

Distilled witch hazel has reported astringent, antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties, useful for treating insect bites and skin irritations. It’s also an excellent base for diluting essential oils for topical application. Do not take it internally.

4. Herbal Insect Repellent

Herbal insect repellents work well when applied liberally and frequently.

5. Arnica Gel or Cream

Arnica flowers have anti-inflammatory and circulation-stimulating properties; the gel or cream may help relieve sore muscles, sprains, strains and bruises. Do not apply arnica to broken skin.

6. Grindelia Poison Ivy Treatment

Grindelia, also known as gumweed, contains resins and tannins that help relieve the symptoms of plant rashes such as poison ivy and poison oak.

7. Lemon Essential Oil

Uplifting, clarifying lemon essential oil can be used as aromatherapy to help dispel mental fatigue. It is also antiseptic, but should be diluted before being applied to the skin.

8. Echinacea Liquid Extract

Rich in phytochemicals that boost immunity, versatile liquid echinacea extract can be used internally to treat infections and externally for wounds and burns.

9. Calendula/Comfrey Salve

With calendula’s antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties and comfrey’s ability to help heal wounds, this salve is perfect for minor cuts and scrapes.

10. Goldenseal Capsules or Powder

A powerful antimicrobial, goldenseal is effective against a variety of microorganisms that cause traveler’s diarrhea. The powder also has antiseptic properties and can be sprinkled onto cuts or wounds to stop bleeding. Do not use during pregnancy.

11. Ginger Capsules, Tea Bags or Crystallized Ginger

The antispasmodic and gas-relieving properties of ginger soothe digestive upsets. Ginger also has been shown to relieve motion sickness better than Dramamine, the conventional drug treatment.

12. Peppermint Essential Oil and Tea Bags

Peppermint soothes an upset stomach, eases congestion from the common cold and curbs itching from insect bites. If you have sensitive skin, dilute peppermint oil before applying. Peppermint tea may aggravate heartburn.

13. Eleuthero Standardized Extract

An excellent adaptogen, eleuthero can help prevent jet lag. Standardized extracts guarantee you’re getting sufficient amounts of eleutherosides, the herb’s active compounds.

14. Lavender Essential Oil

Multi-purpose lavender has sedative, anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties. It’s helpful for anxiety, insomnia, headaches, wounds and burns. Most people can tolerate lavender essential oil applied directly to the skin. Do not take more than 1 to 2 drops internally.

15. Chamomile Tea Bags

Gentle enough for children, chamomile tea promotes relaxation, relieves indigestion and, applied topically, soothes skin irritations.

16. Elderberry Capsules or Liquid Extract

Elderberries can help prevent cold and flu viruses from invading and infecting cells. If you’re flying or otherwise potentially exposed to viruses, taking elderberry is a good preventive. If you come down with a cold or flu, elderberry can hasten your recovery time.

17. Aloe Vera Gel

Cooling and healing, aloe vera soothes the inflammation of sunburn and mild kitchen burns.

Food Items Commonly Mistaken For 'Health Foods'

The food processing industry and its raw food supplier allies have been clever at marketing their products as healthy while attacking the foods they replace as unhealthy. And it has worked both ways.

Saturated fats including coconut oil and real butter were demonized as obesity producers and heart health hazards while trans-fatty acid hydrogenated vegetable oils and margarine were marketed as substitutes that prevented both obesity and heart attacks.

All were lies marketed without intervention from the the Federal Trade Commission (FTA) or the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Yet both agencies are quick to jump on scientifically confirmed health claims from whole food providers such as those who grow and distribute cherries and walnuts (

So we are forced to separate fact from fiction and see our way through the blizzard of lies and contradictions within the health foods field. As basic rules, moderation and different foods for different folks makes sense.

But marketing disinformation has vaulted questionable foods into undeserved health food status.

Foods to avoid that are marketed as health foods

Canola oil is not a healthy substitute for olive oil even if you can find an organic cold pressed version of it without GMO contamination. It's ubiquitous in processed foods and health food stores cafes because its cheap.

Up until the 1970s, there was no such thing as canola. They were originally only rapeseed plants that produced a highly toxic oil suitable for industrial purposes.

Through a nationally funded Canadian effort to stimulate its agricultural export commerce, the rapeseed was genetically engineered to remove most of its toxic erucic acid.

Dr. Baldur Stefansson and his team at the University of Manitoba were the early pioneers of plant genetic engineering by creating LEAR (Low Eucic Acid Rapeseed) in a lab in lieu of normal generational plant hybrid breeding.

The more marketable name Canola was synthesized from Canadian oil (

Dr. Stefansson went on to join Monsanto to develop glyphosate resistant Roundup Ready canola seeds that have almost eliminated non-GMO canola from agriculture. (1)

Questioning soy is comparable to kicking a hornet's nest. It's pro and con camps are uncompromising. Here are some facts. Soy is not consumed as a meat or milk substitute in Asia. It's a moderately eaten side dish that is usually fermented.

Traditional Ayurveda medicine frowns on soy's digestibility unless it is fermented. Tempeh, natto, miso, and some soy sauces are fermented. Most soy is processed and GMO for starters. Roundup Ready soy plants can pass on the most toxic form of glyphosate herbicide ever.

Be wary and cautious with fish and other sea foods. There has already existed a lot of mercury and PBC contamination of seafood. That's been joined by BP's Gulf oil and Corexit contamination and Fukushima's nuclear disaster spilling into the Pacific.

Farmed fish and shrimp are akin to factory farmed beef and pork, full of antibiotics to keep overcrowded and poorly fed creatures from becoming diseased.

Here's a list of relative mercury contamination in wild fish (

Agave nectar is another hornet's nest. One side claims it's a traditionally used and naturally derived syrup from agave plants. The other side claims it's not traditional and that it's processed from the plant to leave out the fiber that would make its high fructose level less harmful.

It cannot be disputed that agave's fructose level is high, and the liver does have issues processing concentrated amounts of fructose beyond what normally appears in whole fruits.

Let's just say it would be wise to stick with raw organic honey, molasses, and organic maple syrup as sweet and healthy syrups.

Monday, July 22, 2013

16 Superb Health Benefits of Cucumber

Pick a handful of firm, dark green cucumbers and pop them into your shopping basket.

Congratulations! You have just bought yourself a fruit (yes, the cool cuke is fruit, not a vegetable) full of good health!

Here is a short list of the impressive health benefits that a cucumber carries:
  • Keeps you hydrated. If you are too busy to drink enough water, munch on the cool cucumber, which is 96 percent water. It will cheerfully compensate!
  • Fights heat, both inside and out. Eat cucumber, and your body gets relief from heartburn. Apply cucumber on your skin, and you get relief from sunburn.
  • Flushes out toxins. All that water in cucumber acts as a virtual broom, sweeping waste products out of your system. With regular use, cucumber is known to dissolve kidney stones.
  • Lavishes you with vitamins. A B and C, which boost immunity, give you energy, and keep you radiant. Give it more power by juicing cucumber with carrot and spinach.
  • Supplies skin-friendly minerals: magnesium, potassium, silicon. That’s why cucumber-based treatments abound in spas.
  • Aids in weight loss. Enjoy cucumbers in your salads and soups. My favorite snack? Crunchy cucumber sticks with creamy low-fat yogurt dip.
  • Revives the eyes. Placing chilled slices of cucumber on the eyes is a clich├ęd beauty visual, but it really helps reduce under-eye bags and puffiness.
  • Cuts cancer. Cut down your risk of several cancers by including cucumber in your diet. Several studies show its cancer-fighting potential.
  • Stabilizes blood pressure. Patients of blood pressure, both high and low, often find that eating cucumber brings relief.
  • Refreshes the mouth. Cucumber juice refreshes and heals diseased gums, leaving your mouth smelling good.
  • Helps digestion. Chewing cucumber gives the jaws a good workout, and the fiber in it is great for digestion.
  • Smooths hair and nails. Silica, the wonder mineral in cucumber makes your hair and nails stronger and shinier.
  • Soothes muscle and joint pain. All those vitamins and minerals in cucumber make it a powerful enemy of muscle and joint pain.
  • Keeps kidneys in shape. Cucumber lowers uric acid levels in your system, keeping the kidneys happy.
  • Good for diabetics. Patients of diabetes can enjoy cucumber while also reaping its health benefits: cucumber contains a hormone needed by the cells of the pancreas for producing insulin.
  • Reduces cholesterol. A compound called sterols in cucumber helps reduce bad cholesterol.
[via Care2]

Sunday, July 21, 2013

How to Make Healthy Flavored Water at Home

Summer is upon us and hot, super-sunny days are abundant. Between hiking, biking, running around, and those lazy days at a park, it is important to stay hydrated.  And honestly, sometimes plain old water just doesn’t cut it.

Fruit infused waters seem to be the trick! Infused waters are easy to make, nutritious, and refreshing. Simply use any fresh fruit (except bananas — they don't work well), herbs, and spices to flavor your once plain water to create a perfect summer drink.

Minty Cucumber Lime

1/2 a cucumber, sliced
1/2 a lime, sliced
1/4 cup fresh mint leaves

Strawberry-Lemon with Basil

1/2 cup sliced strawberries
1/2 a lemon, sliced
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves

Watermelon Mint

1 cup cubed watermelon
1/4 cup fresh mint leaves

Pineapple-Orange with Ginger

1/2 cup cubed pineapple
1/2 an orange, sliced
1 tablespoon freshly-grated ginger

What You’ll Need:

1-quart jars
Wooden Spoon
Agave or another sweetener (optional)

What to Do:

  1. Choose which recipe you're making — or come up with your own combination — and gather all of the ingredients.
  2. Place the fruit, herbs, and/or spices in the bottom of one of the glass jars, and muddle with a wooden spoon. (basically mash up the fruit in the bottom of the jar to release some of the flavor-filled juices.)
  3. Fill the jar with water and give it a taste. (You can also fill the jar with seltzer water for a fizzy treat.) If you'd like something a bit sweeter, try adding some agave (and mix until dissolved).
  4. Enjoy as-is or refrigerate overnight for maximum flavor.
[via Greatist]

Thursday, July 18, 2013

7 Foods You Should Always Avoid

Clean eating means choosing fruits, vegetables, and meats that are raised, grown, and sold with minimal processing.

Often they're organic, and rarely (if ever) should they contain additives. But in some cases, the methods of today's food producers are neither clean nor sustainable. The result is damage to our health, the environment, or both. So we decided to take a fresh look at food through the eyes of the people who spend their lives uncovering what's safe—or not—to eat. We asked them a simple question: "What foods do you avoid?" Their answers don't necessarily make up a "banned foods" list. But reaching for the suggested alternatives might bring you better health—and peace of mind.

1. Canned Tomatoes

Fredrick Vom Saal, PhD, an endocrinologist at the University of Missouri who studies bisphenol-A, gives us the scoop:

The problem: The resin linings of tin cans contain bisphenol-A, a synthetic estrogen that has been linked to ailments ranging from reproductive problems to heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. Unfortunately, acidity (a prominent characteristic of tomatoes) causes BPA to leach into your food. Studies show that the BPA in most people's body exceeds the amount that suppresses sperm production or causes chromosomal damage to the eggs of animals. "You can get 50 mcg of BPA per liter out of a tomato can, and that's a level that is going to impact people, particularly the young," says vom Saal. "I won't go near canned tomatoes."

The solution: Choose tomatoes in glass bottles (which do not need resin linings), such as the brands Bionaturae and Coluccio. You can also get several types in Tetra Pak boxes, like Trader Joe's and Pomi.

Budget tip: If your recipe allows, substitute bottled pasta sauce for canned tomatoes. Look for pasta sauces with low sodium and few added ingredients, or you may have to adjust the recipe.

2. Corn-Fed Beef

Joel Salatin, co-owner of Polyface Farms and author of half a dozen books on sustainable farming, gives us the scoop:

The problem: Cattle evolved to eat grass, not grains. But farmers today feed their animals corn and soybeans, which fatten up the animals faster for slaughter. But more money for cattle farmers (and lower prices at the grocery store) means a lot less nutrition for us. A recent comprehensive study conducted by the USDA and researchers from Clemson University found that compared with corn-fed beef, grass-fed beef is higher in beta-carotene, vitamin E, omega-3s, conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), calcium, magnesium, and potassium; lower in inflammatory omega-6s; and lower in saturated fats that have been linked to heart disease. "We need to respect the fact that cows are herbivores, and that does not mean feeding them corn and chicken manure," says Salatin.

The solution:
Buy grass-fed beef, which can be found at specialty grocers, farmers' markets, and nationally at Whole Foods. It's usually labeled because it demands a premium, but if you don't see it, ask your butcher.

Budget tip:
Cuts on the bone are cheaper because processors charge extra for deboning. You can also buy direct from a local farmer, which can be as cheap as $5 per pound. To find a farmer near you, search

3. Microwave Popcorn

Olga Naidenko, PhD, a senior scientist for the Environmental Working Group, gives us the scoop:

The problem:
Chemicals, including perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), in the lining of the bag, are part of a class of compounds that may be linked to infertility in humans, according to a recent study from UCLA. In animal testing, the chemicals cause liver, testicular, and pancreatic cancer. Studies show that microwaving causes the chemicals to vaporize—and migrate into your popcorn. "They stay in your body for years and accumulate there," says Naidenko, which is why researchers worry that levels in humans could approach the amounts causing cancers in laboratory animals. DuPont and other manufacturers have promised to phase out PFOA by 2015 under a voluntary EPA plan, but millions of bags of popcorn will be sold between now and then.

The solution: Pop natural kernels the old-fashioned way: in a skillet. For flavorings, you can add real butter or dried seasonings, such as dillweed, vegetable flakes, or soup mix.

Budget tip: Popping your own popcorn is dirt cheap.

4. Non-Organic Potatoes

Jeffrey Moyer, chair of the National Organic Standards Board, gives us the scoop:

The problem:
Root vegetables absorb herbicides, pesticides, and fungicides that wind up in soil. In the case of potatoes—the nation's most popular vegetable—they're treated with fungicides during the growing season, then sprayed with herbicides to kill off the fibrous vines before harvesting. After they're dug up, the potatoes are treated yet again to prevent them from sprouting. " Try this experiment: Buy a conventional potato in a store, and try to get it to sprout. It won't," says Moyer, who is also farm director of the Rodale Institute (also owned by Rodale Inc., the publisher of Prevention). "I've talked with potato growers who say point-blank they would never eat the potatoes they sell. They have separate plots where they grow potatoes for themselves without all the chemicals."

The solution: Buy organic potatoes. Washing isn't good enough if you're trying to remove chemicals that have been absorbed into the flesh.

Budget tip: Organic potatoes are only $1 to $2 a pound, slightly more expensive than conventional spuds.

5. Farmed Salmon

David Carpenter, MD, director of the Institute for Health and the Environment at the University at Albany and publisher of a major study in the journal Science on contamination in fish, gives us the scoop:

The problem:
Nature didn't intend for salmon to be crammed into pens and fed soy, poultry litter, and hydrolyzed chicken feathers. As a result, farmed salmon is lower in vitamin D and higher in contaminants, including carcinogens, PCBs, brominated flame retardants, and pesticides such as dioxin and DDT. According to Carpenter, the most contaminated fish come from Northern Europe, which can be found on American menus. "You could eat one of these salmon dinners every 5 months without increasing your risk of cancer," says Carpenter, whose 2004 fish contamination study got broad media attention. "It's that bad." Preliminary science has also linked DDT to diabetes and obesity, but some nutritionists believe the benefits of omega-3s outweigh the risks. There is also concern about the high level of antibiotics and pesticides used to treat these fish. When you eat farmed salmon, you get dosed with the same drugs and chemicals.

The solution:
Switch to wild-caught Alaska salmon. If the package says fresh Atlantic, it's farmed. There are no commercial fisheries left for wild Atlantic salmon.

Budget tip: Canned salmon, almost exclusively from wild catch, can be found for as little as $3 a can.

6. Milk Produced with Artificial Hormones

Rick North, project director of the Campaign for Safe Food at the Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility and former CEO of the Oregon division of the American Cancer Society, gives us the scoop:

The problem: Milk producers treat their dairy cattle with recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH or rBST, as it is also known) to boost milk production. But rBGH also increases udder infections and even pus in the milk. It also leads to higher levels of a hormone called insulin-like growth factor in milk. In people, high levels of IGF-1 may contribute to breast, prostate, and colon cancers. "When the government approved rBGH, it was thought that IGF-1 from milk would be broken down in the human digestive tract," says North. As it turns out, the casein in milk protects most of it, according to several independent studies. "There's not 100% proof that this is increasing cancer in humans," admits North. "However, it's banned in most industrialized countries."

The solution: Check labels for rBGH-free, rBST-free, produced without artificial hormones, or organic milk. These phrases indicate rBGH-free products.

Budget tip: Try your grocer's private label, but make sure it does not use rBGH.

7. Conventional Apples

Mark Kastel, former executive for agribusiness and codirector of the Cornucopia Institute, a farm-policy research group that supports organic foods, gives us the scoop:

The problem: If fall fruits held a "most doused in pesticides contest," apples would win. Why? They are individually grafted (descended from a single tree) so that each variety maintains its distinctive flavor. As such, apples don't develop resistance to pests and are sprayed frequently. The industry maintains that these residues are not harmful. But Kastel counters that it's just common sense to minimize exposure by avoiding the most doused produce, like apples. "Farm workers have higher rates of many cancers," he says. And increasing numbers of studies are starting to link a higher body burden of pesticides (from all sources) with Parkinson's disease.

The solution: Buy organic apples.

Budget tip: If you can't afford organic, be sure to wash and peel them. But Kastel personally refuses to compromise. "I would rather see the trade-off being that I don't buy that expensive electronic gadget," he says. "Just a few of these decisions will accommodate an organic diet for a family."

[via Prevention]

5 Delicious Protein Shake Recipes

If you do not have time to eat 5 to 6 meals a day, protein shakes are a great filler; these are 5 Delicious Protein Shake Recipes you can try out, whether it is prior to, during, or after working out. Or, if you just need to get a meal in on the go, these are simple shake recipes you will love.

1. Keep it Plain

With a vanilla based protein powder, simply add soy or almond vanilla milk, a few ice cubes, and blend, or shake in a shaker. Depending on the consistency you prefer, the amount of ice (or whether you shake or blend) will vary for everyone. This is simple, you can make it anywhere, and it is going to taste good if you choose the right protein powder supplement.

2. Go Green

With the same base ingredients, you can add in spinach, kale, and your choice of greens. You will not taste these vegetables, and if you want, you can add a few fruits of choice for a sweeter taste. This is a great way to get your vegetables in for the day, without having to cook, plus you are not going to taste them if you are not a big fan of veggies.

3. Add a Coffee Hint

With the vanilla whey powder, soy or almond milk and ice, you can add in a little coffee for a unique taste (brewed or coffee bean); you can also use instant coffee packs if you don’t want to get the beans out, and adding in a 1/2 cup of oats is a great way to create a shake that is a little more filling, and can hold you over for a few hours.

4. Lemon Shake

If you enjoy a citrus taste, you can add 1 freshly squeezed lemon to the protein powder, water (or milk) and ice blend. If you like mixed blends, you can also add orange juice, or other citrus based fruits, in order to give it a little more flavor, and to add the citrus taste that you love.

5. Peanut Butter Blend

If you love peanut butter, add it to your shake. You will simply add one or two teaspoons in to the whey vanilla powder, your milk and ice blend; you can also add in a few blueberries or strawberries (or both), if you want to add a little sweetness to the mix. You can include any additional fruits you want, to make a distinct flavor blend.

There are so many shakes and unique flavors you can create. But always remember, it is best to use a vanilla based whey protein powder, since it is easy to flavor, and you can pretty much add anything in to the mix if you want more flavor, more sweetness, or simply want to create your own unique tastes and blends when you are looking for an extra source of protein. Anyway, I hope these recipes will help you make the tastiest protein shake ever!
[via: Happy Green]

What You (and Your Customers) Should Know About GMOs

In recent years, people worldwide have grown increasingly attuned to genetically modified organisms, or GMOs. Nearly 2 million people participated in a global non-GMO “March against Monsanto” last May. More than 20 states now have GMO labeling legislation in the works. And in a game-changing move, in March 2013, Whole Foods Market announced that by 2018 all items sold in its stores must include GMO labeling. “We are putting a stake in the ground on GMO labeling to support the consumer’s right to know,” said co-CEO Walter Robb.

But for many of us, GMOs are still a mystery. What are they? How do they impact our health and environment? And what’s being done to label them? Here’s a quick overview of GMOs from seed to plate.

Made in a lab

There’s little argument over what genetic modification is: Scientists remove a gene from one organism and transfer that gene to a different organism. Unlike traditional methods, where farmers might breed plants from the same species to make a stronger plant, GM technology makes it possible to transfer any gene from any organism into a different one.

For example, Bt corn, developed in 1996, contains a gene from soil bacteria that’s toxic to insects. Scientists first isolate the desired bacterium DNA. “They then use a ‘gene gun’ to shoot [the bacteria] genes into a Petri dish full of corn embryos,” explains Gregory Jaffe, director of biotechnology projects at the Center for Science in the Public Interest. “They hope a bit of DNA randomly gets through the corn cell membrane. If it does, scientists take that embryo and grow a plant from it.” The resulting plant expresses the gene—in Bt’s case, an insecticide—in every one of its cells, enabling the corn itself to kill bugs. Needless to say, this scenario would never occur in nature—but as of 2012, Bt corn makes up 67 percent of all American corn acreage.

Spread in a field

Even more widespread than Bt corn are herbicide-tolerant crops that survive glyphosate, the weed killer known as Roundup. (Fittingly, these crops are called Roundup Ready.) Companies that manufacture Roundup Ready corn, cotton, and soybeans claim these crops are the solution to the world’s food problems, insisting that the GMO versions have higher yields, benefit farmers and the environment, and reduce herbicide use.

Anti-GMO activists disagree. “When [Roundup Ready] technology first came onto the market in 1996, most farmers had excellent weed control with only one herbicide application per crop,” says Chuck Benbrook, a research professor at Washington State University who studies genetically engineered crops. “But by 2000, the first Roundup tolerant weeds started to emerge in fields and were surviving a low application rate.” Fighting these progressively more resilient weeds is a snowballing struggle because farmers must incrementally up herbicide use. Since GMOs were adopted, farmers have increased herbicide use by 7 percent.

This worries Benbrook. “The sheer volume of glyphosate has led to soil changes that reduce a plant’s ability to draw up various mineral micronutrients [like zinc, chromium, and manganese],” he says. This also renders plants vulnerable to bacterial and fungal attacks. The downside? Lower crop yields, less nutrition, and more fungicide spraying.

Plus, a whole host of negative effects result from massive Roundup use. Most recently, a study published in the scientific journal Entropy suggests that long-term exposure to glyphosate residues could be linked to a suite of human health issues, including gastrointestinal disorders, Alzheimer’s, and certain cancers. As weeds continue to become even more resistant, heavier glyphosate use and more precarious herbicides (such as 2,4-D, an ingredient in Agent Orange) lurk on the horizon. Frighteningly, these higher-risk chemicals have a nasty habit of drifting.

Just label them

The Grocery Manufacturers Association estimates that a whopping 75 percent to 80 percent of conventional processed foods now contain GMOs. Even foods that don’t list corn, soy, or canola as a main ingredient can still be GMO-laden because of sneaky additives like ascorbic acid, maltodextrin, sugar from beets or corn, lactic acid, and more.“Products with seemingly low risk ingredients often have ones that could contain GMOs,” says Courtney Pineau, assistant director for the Non-GMO Project, a certification organization. “It’s surprising where GMOs can pop up, and it’s changing all the time.” Translation: If you’re not buying USDA Organic (which, by definition, excludes GMO ingredients), you’re probably eating GMOs.

Non-GMO proponents insist that labeling foods containing GMOs is paramount. While nearly 60 countries, including Australia, Japan, and the EU mandate GMO labeling, the United States does not, so you have no way to know what you’re eating or feeding to your family.

That doesn’t sit well with a lot of people. Since Whole Foods announced its labeling initiative, the Non-GMO Project has fielded a surge of inquiries from natural manufacturers wishing to attain the Non-GMO Project Verified seal. “A lot of this interest has to do with the impacts of the Right to Know movement, efforts from the Just Label It campaign, state initiatives, and increased outreach and education from Non-GMO Project Verified companies,” says Pineau.

The FDA maintains its position that GMOs are harmless, claiming there’s no evidence to substantiate adverse health effects. But the opposite is also true: There’s inconclusive evidence to show that they’re safe. According to a growing base of scientists, food experts, and citizens, you have the right to know what’s in your food and to choose or avoid products based on that knowledge.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Why to Support Labeling GM Foods

Many U.S. states have mandatory labeling of genetically modified foods on their legislative agendas. Survey after survey shows that more than 90 percent of us want GM foods to be labeled. Now is the time to contact your elected representatives and let them know you’re concerned about genetically modified food.

Genes form the building blocks of all life. Genetic modification — the technological shuffling of those building blocks among unrelated species — has been heralded since the 1990s as a potentially powerful agricultural tool. But pretty much all the genetically modified (GM) foods that have come to market so far have been crop varieties engineered to resist herbicides or produce insecticidal compounds (so farmers could, theoretically, apply fewer chemicals), and milk from dairy cows given a GM growth hormone that forces them to give more milk. Some countries have adopted these products, but others have banned them because the actual benefits of GM varieties remain unclear, especially as pests adapt to the traits upon which the technology relies.

Both benefits and downsides for consumers are controversial. In 1992, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration ruled, based on woefully limited data, that GM foods were “substantially equivalent” to their non-GM counterparts. That ruling has been under fire ever since, but the government has failed to require new safety testing. Meanwhile, thousands of foods containing GM corn and soy have been introduced into our food supply (see the chart at How to Avoid Genetically Modified Food to learn how to avoid GM foods).

Recent studies have escalated public concern and renewed demands that GM foods be labeled. Studies have linked genetically modified organisms (GMOs) to cancer, deterioration of liver and kidney function, stomach inflammation, and impaired embryonic development.

Whether you’re for or against GM foods, one thing’s for certain: The science is incomplete.

A GMO labeling initiative on the 2012 ballot in California failed by 53 to 47 percent. Proponents of labeling spent $7.3 million; Big Ag and food processors spent $44 million. Labeling GM foods is about much more than just food safety. It’s about our right as consumers to know what we are eating. But labeling is also about how dominant we are going to allow Big Ag to become. Some of us don’t want to eat GM foods or feed them to our livestock. Others push for labeling because we want to make sure our food policy isn’t set by a handful of multinational corporations.

In the United States, we expect food to carry a label that tells us what’s in it. We require that our orange juice reveal if it is made directly from oranges or “from concentrate.” We require labels to tell us if salt, sugar, MSG, artificial flavors or colors, vitamins, or other ingredients have been added. We require meat labels to reveal when it has been pumped with up to a 12 percent saltwater “flavor solution.” And we require milk to indicate whether it is skim, 1 percent fat, 2 percent fat or whole. GM foods should be labeled; there is simply no good argument against telling consumers the whole story.

Monsanto and big food companies like to claim that genetic engineering is essential to feed the world’s ever-growing population. That’s nonsense — most hunger is due to economic inequality and systemic corruption that prevents food from getting to where it’s needed, not due to food shortages. And on the note of the “world’s ever-growing population,” it’s time for society to recognize that unlimited population growth is not sustainable to begin with. We need to choose a wiser course.

Survey after survey shows that 90 percent or more of us want GM foods to be labeled. The GMO-labeling initiative in California almost passed last year, despite the oceans of money pouring in to defeat it. Nearly half of U.S. states now have mandatory GM labeling on their legislative agendas.

If you’re concerned about labeling GM foods, now is the time to contact your elected representatives.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Eating in Season: 5 July Superfoods to Boost Your Health

It’s hot, and also the time of year for vegetable gardens to be producing bountiful goodies. You likely already know the best method for consuming produce is by growing your own, and you probably know that eating in season is preferable. But whether you have your own supply or shop locally at a farmer’s market, definitely make a point to purchase these 5 summer superfoods while they are in the midst of their peak season.


While it’s not a staple in all gardens, it should be a staple in all kitchens. Not only is it versatile for cooking, garlic has numerous health benefits—making it a true superfood. It has heart-protective qualities, can help with iron metabolism, includes anti-inflammatory benefits, may reduce your risk of cancer, and has both anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties.


We are right in the middle of peach-season. And if you can find them from a local orchard, you are in for a sweet treat. Peaches are a great source of vitamin C and dietary fiber. They may also be effective in fighting metabolic syndrome—a set of symptoms like obesity and inflammation that can lead to serious issues like heart disease and type 2 diabetes.


If you (or the farmers around you) were able to get their tomatoes in early enough, you should be enjoying plenty of these sun-ripened, summer superfoods right now. These are a summertime favorite as you can almost taste the sun in each one. Tomatoes have numerous health benefits including the anti-cancer properties of lycopene, a powerful antioxidant. They are also rich in vitamins C, A, B6, E, and K.


While many leafy greens can’t take the heat, chard varieties are tolerant and have a long growing season. Whether you like Swiss or Rainbow chard, the health benefits are many. According to WHFoods, chard leaves contains at least 13 different polyphenol antioxidants—which have the ability to help with everything from blood sugar regulation to cancer protection. Chard also supports bone health and has anti-inflammatory properties.


It wouldn’t be summer without watermelon. It’s chock full of water so is a great way to keep kids (and adults) hydrated while playing on hot days. But watermelon benefits don’t stop there; it’s also a good source of vitamins A and C and includes both lycopene and beta-carotene.

Summer is a great time to boost your fruit and vegetable consumption. These foods can provide the fuel you need to keep active in beautiful weather and provide a wide range of amazing benefits. Also, the summer flavors give you one more reason to enjoy this time of year

Celery Lowers Blood Pressure Naturally and Effectively

While most doctors prescribe powerful hypertension drugs that cause numerous side effects, there is a simple way to reduce blood pressure and balance cholesterol levels, and it doesn’t come in a bottle. Celery has been used for centuries to treat everything from urinary tract infections to skin conditions, but it is most profoundly useful as a treatment for hypertension. This is due to its high concentrations of a substance called 3-butylphthalide, described by researchers at the University of Chicago Medical Center as a chemical that both reduces blood pressure by relaxing the smooth muscle lining of blood vessels, and purifying the blood of toxins.

The study abstract concluded with:
“Conclusions: The results from this pilot study suggest that celery seed extract may have clinically relevant blood pressure–lowering effects, indicating that additional clinical research is warranted.”

Eating or juicing just four stalks of celery a day prompts a decrease in both blood pressure and cholesterol levels. In addition to this health-giving benefit, celery is also full of vitamin C, fiber, and potassium, so it is a great post-workout replenishment. Celery is also 90% water so it is a very alkalizing food. During the Roman Empire, celery was fed to livestock to help de-acidify their diets. It also helped to cure the effects of feasting heavily, and was eaten the morning after a glutenous night of binging.

One of your favorite pale green vegetables, celery (Apium graveolens), is even mentioned by Homer in the Odyssey in 850 B.C. and by Chinese healers alike as a powerful healing food. Celery has also been used by Dutch healers since the eighteenth century and Chinese herbalists since the fifth century.

It is estimated that Americans spent more than 5 billion dollars on hypertension drugs in just the past five years alone. Celery is an inexpensive way to treat this disease without side effects that accompany drugs like Adderall or Celexa, Cipro, and Hydrocodone. Why would anyone want to suffer from nausea, dizziness, loss of sexual appetite, light headedness, insomnia, and other unpleasant side effects when celery provides only life sustaining nutrients and a natural hypertension solution?

Just be sure to purchase your celery organically, since it is listed as one of the dirty dozen, which is a list of fruit and veggies that contain high levels of pesticide residues when purchased conventionally.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Plants for Your Office

Adding a touch of green to your work space carries proven wellness benefits, from boosting productivity to purifying the air. But windowless cubicles and wacky watering schedules can bring most plant varieties to an early demise.

Avoid getting stuck with a sad plant cemetery on your desk by choosing one of these air-cleaning, mood-boosting varieties that are also nearly impossible to kill.

Spider plant

Perfect for high shelves and hanging baskets, the low-maintenance spider plant thrives in partial sun or shade – making it ideal for your cubicle or windowless office.

As an added bonus, spider plants carry loads of benefits for improving indoor air quality and reducing stress at work, as noted by researchers from the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

A report published by the university’s Cooperative Extension Service cited the humble spider plant as one of the top varieties for removing VOCs and other pollutants from indoor air.

Air-cleansing plants also boost relative humidity and decreases particulate matter (aka dust), which can have a relaxing effect on workers and reduce common allergy symptoms, according to the report.

Care instructions: Plant your spider plant in a size-appropriate pot or hanging basket with rich potting soil. This pick is resilient enough to withstand infrequent watering and thrive with little more than fluorescent light. But if you notice droopy or brown leaves, simply move your plant to a brighter location for a few days to bring it back to its full glory.

Lemon Balm

Super-fragrant lemon balm plants can tolerate full sun or full shade, meaning they’ll be happy even if the nearest window is all the way across the office. In addition to being seriously hardy, research suggests that having a lemon balm plant around may also improve your mood and boost workplace wellness.

An Ohio State University study showed that while the scent of lemon doesn’t carry the medicinal healing properties touted by some aromatherapy proponents, its sweet smell did show a clear mood enhancement. So, for the often stressful office environment, it certainly couldn’t hurt.

Care instructions: Plant your lemon balm in a size-appropriate pot with good drainage and rich potting soil. Your plant will thrive in almost any light conditions but it should be kept moist, so don’t forget to water it!


The lush and leafy philodendron is nearly impossible to kill and research from the University of Technology, Sydney – one of Australia’s top tech institutions – indicates this pick may also be good for your health.

Researchers from the University’s Centre for Environmental Sustainability listed philodendrons as one of the top varieties for freeing indoor air of VOCs and excess carbon dioxide, which can be harmful to human health.

The study cites all-day exposure to VOCs and high CO2 levels (even at imperceptible levels) as a frequent cause of headaches, drowsiness and loss of concentration. So, adding an air-cleansing variety like this one could go a long way to boosting productivity at work, researchers concluded.

Care instructions: Plant your philodendron in a pot or hanging basket with rich, loose potting soil. Keep the soil fairly moist by watering about two times each week.

Peace Lily

Peace lilies love the shade, so they’ll do just fine even far away from a window. This eye-catching variety is also one of the best plants for improving indoor air quality, according to NASA research.

A 1989 study published by B.C. "Bill" Wolverton, an environmental scientist working with NASA and the U.S. military, concluded that peace lilies removed more VOCs from the air than nearly any other houseplant.

Since then, its cleansing properties have been recognized by researchers at the University of Minnesota, Penn State University and National Chin-Yi University of Technology in Taiwan, just to name a few.

Care instructions: Plant your peace lilies in rich, loose potting soil, and make sure the pot provides adequate drainage. Check the soil every few days and water as necessary. To ensure healthy leaves and frequent flowering, never allow the soil to dry out.

Golden Pothos

Golden pothos was also noted by NASA researchers as a top air-cleaning plant, and it’s famously low-maintenance to boot.

Its lovely heart-shaped leaves removed up to 73 percent of VOCs and other pollutants from sealed chambers as part of the NASA study, and the plant experts at Better Homes & Gardens called the variety “one of the best indoor plants for low-light situations” – making it perfect for your desk.

Care instructions: Plant your golden pothos in a size-appropriate pot or hanging basket, and keep the soil slightly on the dry side. Don’t worry about re-potting as the plant grows. This pick actually enjoys being slightly root-bound.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Top 10 Worst GMO Foods

Genetically modified foods (GMO foods) have been shown to cause harm to humans, animals, and the environment, and despite growing opposition, more and more foods continue to be genetically altered. It’s important to note that steering clear of these foods completely may be difficult, and you should merely try to find other sources than your big chain grocer. If produce is certified USDA-organic, it’s non-GMO (or supposed to be!) Also, seek out local farmers and booths at farmer’s markets where you can be ensured that the crops aren’t GMO. Even better, if you are so inclined: Start organic gardening and grow them yourself. Until then, here are the top 10 worst GMO foods for your “do not eat” GMO foods list (in no particular order).


One of the most prominent GMO foods, avoiding corn is a no-brainer. If you’ve watched any food documentary, you know corn is highly modified. “As many as half of all U.S. farms growing corn for Monsanto are using genetically modified corn,” and much of it is intended for human consumption. Monsanto’s GMO corn has been tied to numerous health issues, including weight gain and organ disruption.


Found in tofu, vegetarian products, soybean oil, soy flour, and numerous other products, soy is also modified to resist herbicides. As of now, biotech giant Monsanto still has a tight grasp on the soybean market, with approximately 90 percent of soy being genetically engineered to resist Monsanto’s herbicide Roundup. In one single year, 2006, there was 96.7 million pounds of glyphosate sprayed on soybeans alone. According to one report, "[a]fter feeding hamsters for two years over three generations, those on the GM diet, and especially the group on the maximum GM soy diet, showed devastating results. By the third generation, most GM soy-fed hamsters lost the ability to have babies. They also suffered slower growth, and a high mortality rate among the pups."


Sugar from genetically modified sugar beets hit the market in the U.S. in 2009. They were modified by the Monsanto Corporation to be resistant to the company's Roundup herbicide. In 2010 a group of Oregon farmers sued to stop planting that year of Monsanto's genetically altered sugar beets over fears the crops could cross-contaminate other nearby fields.


An artificial sweetener found in a number of products, aspartame - discovered by accident in 1965 by a chemist testing an anti-ulcer drug - accounts for as many as 75 percent of adverse reactions to food additives reported to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), according to some reports. Some seizures and even some deaths have been blamed on aspartame.


This one may come as a surprise to all of you tropical-fruit lovers. GMO papayas have been grown in Hawaii for consumption since 1999, designed to combat the Papaya Ringspot Virus. Though they can’t be sold to countries in the European Union, they are welcome with open arms in the U.S. and Canada.


This is probably one of the most misunderstood, misguided "healthy" food choices out there right now, but there is little about canola - and similar oils - that is good for you. Extracted from rapeseed, canola oil and others must be chemically removed from the seeds, then deodorized and altered, in order to be utilized in foods. They are among the most chemically altered foods in our diets.


Considered a food item because its oil can be consumed, cotton - in particular, genetically modified Bt cotton, common to India and China - has damaging consequences. According to recent Chinese research, while Bt cotton is capable of killing bollworms without the use of insecticides, its decreased use has increased the presence of other crop-harming pests. Also, Bt cotton production has been linked to drastic depletion of soil nutrients and lower crop yields, as well as much higher water requirements.


A disturbingly high number - as many as one-fifth - of dairy cows in the U.S. today are given growth hormones to increase milk production, a figure that has been rising since the FDA approved a genetically engineered recombinant bovine growth hormone known as rbGH or rbST for use in dairy cows in 1993. While said to boost production by 5-15 percent, scientists have expressed concern that the increased levels of IGF-1 (insulin growth factors-1) from hormone-treated cows may boost the risks of colon and breast cancer. Since 2008, Hiland Dairy has stopped using milk from dairy farmers who inject their cows with growth hormone.


It goes without saying that many biotech companies say genetically modified foods are safe for you, but as GMO science expands, reseachers are finding more evidence that such foods can harm your health. One of those is zucchini. While not as potentially harmful as other GM foods, zucchini is nonetheless "engineered" to resist some strains of virus.

Yellow squash 

Like zucchini, yellow squash is also a fast-rising GMO crop in the U.S., and as such, should cause you concern. If you like squash - and scores of Americans do - check out a farmer's market that doesn't sell GMO squash or grow your own using non-modified seed.

The dangers of some of these foods are well-known. The Bt toxin being used in GMO corn, for example, was recently detected in the blood of pregnant women and their babies. But perhaps more frightening are the risks that are still unknown. Even while these foods should be on your GMO foods list so that they are avoided, you can buy 100% organic to be safest.

With little regulation and safety tests performed by the companies doing the genetic modifications themselves, we have no way of knowing for certain what risks these lab-created foods pose to us outside of what we already know.

The best advice: steer clear of them altogether.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Eco-Friendly DIY Fertilizers

Try these easy, green alternatives to chemical fertilizers that will nourish your garden

Feed your garden with one of these six earth-friendly options.

Coffee Grounds

Coffee grounds are a thrifty source of nitrogen as well as smaller percentages of potassium and phosphorus (in that order). And the best part...slugs hate coffee. Sprinkle some around their favorite plants to keep those slimeballs away.

The trouble with coffee is that it is slightly acidic. Adding a sprinkle straight onto the soil around most edible crops is generally okay now and again, but heavy coffee drinkers should save direct application for acid-loving plants like blueberries. Better yet, compost large quantities first and it will be ready to use all over the garden without burning sensitive plants and seedlings.

Crustacean Shells (shrimp, crab, lobster)

Chop up the inedible shells from tonight's dinner and drop them into a 2-foot hole dug in the garden. The shells will compost in a matter of weeks, adding nitrogen, phosphorus, and lime (alkaline) to the soil on site. Mark the spot and dig up the compost in a month or so if you want to spread the goodness around.

Poultry Manure

It smells awful, but chickens make excellent, super-nutrient-rich fertilizer as they soil their bedding. If you're keeping your own chickens, you can't let all of that good stuff go to waste. Put it in the compost bin, bedding and all, for at least 6 months first, because fresh manure is super high in nitrogen and can burn plants.

Comfrey Tea

Comfrey (Symphytum officinale) is a doggedly invasive plant that also happens to be chockablock full of phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, and trace minerals and vitamins. You can benefit from its persistence in the garden by turning it into a rich fertilizer tea and feeding all that goodness to the plants that need it. Brew up a batch by mixing 1 part comfrey leaves in a bucket with 2 parts water. Set it in the sun for a day or two to brew, then strain it. Compost the remaining parts and use the liquid as a fertilizer. Dilute it down with water by half or more to use as a foliar spray.

Fish Scraps

Deeply bury uncooked fish heads, guts, and tails in the garden bed where they will break down into the soil, providing lots of nitrogen, trace minerals, and a bit of calcium. Dig holes about 2 feet deep to keep curious critters from nosing around. If you grow in rows, try burying fish parts in between the rows or near nitrogen-loving plants like tomatoes and corn.

Worm Poo Tea

Vermicompost is a great, well-balanced addition to the garden and even better when applied as a liquid foliar feed. If you're keeping a worm bin, there's no reason to buy the store-bought stuff! Steep a couple of tablespoons of worm casting, straight out of the bin, in 4 liters of warm water for about 24 hours and strain it into a spray bottle. If you like, you can even prepackage the castings in paper or muslin filters.

4th of July Food Ideas: Red, White, Blue and Delicious!

Looking forward to our nation’s birthday? One of the best ways to make this July 4th memorable is a patriotic picnic.

So how to make a picnic patriotic? However you can, show your colors: red, white and blue.

Perhaps the easiest way is with everything but the food. Plates, cups and utensils – get them in red, white and blue – or each in one of the three colors. Make sure your table cloth or ground cover also sets the colors right.

And think green, with red, white and blue. Try to use reusable, such as white or blue cloth napkins, white china plates, and blue cups. Get fun decorations like streamers and flags. And for picnics heading into the dusk, sparklers add festive light.

Next, you’ll want to think of foods and drinks that are easy to carry and serve. And of course, you’ll want to enjoy foods that fresh and unique to the season, so plan on favorites like grilled foods, fresh fruits, summer salads, and of course corn on the cob.

Here are some 4th of July food ideas that show your colors

Fruit Salads - One of the best ideas for a patriotic picnic is a fruit salad. First, there are so many fresh summer fruits that are red or blue. Mix blueberries with strawberries, raspberries, or chunks of watermelon. Then top it with whip cream – or put it on yogurt – for a cool, sweet, patriotic treat.

Tomato Salad – Another great choice. There are many varieties of tomatoes, so choose the right color for your Independence Day salad. Top with mozzarella salad, serve in a blue bowl, and you’ve got a great flag-saluting side dish.

Red Potato Salad - While we all know russet potatoes, the fact is there are many varieties. For the 4th of July, pick red potatoes. Top with shredded mozzarella or white cheddar, and serve in a blue bowl. Tasty and colorful!

Coleslaw - Another great salad idea for your holiday picnic. With so many varieties of cabbage, you can choose white, red and purple varieties to create a colorful mix. And as an added plus, cabbages are among the most healthy vegetables, and tastes great chilled – making in an awesome summer salad.

Iced Tea or Lemonade - Cool and refreshing, both tea and lemonade come in many varieties – and colors. As an added plus, many teas have super healthy antioxidants, which slow aging and help prevent cancer. So choose a red tea or strawberry lemonade, and float some blueberries on top. Serve in white cups or with white napkins, and you’ve saluting your flag.

Chicken - There aren’t any meats that are red, white and blue – and if you see some, you probably shouldn’t eat them. But your picnic can still feature a great meat dish. Chicken is a great choice because it’s easy to eat with fingers, not too greasy, and a healthy lean meat. And it’s delicious and popular cold, perfect for being outside at a picnic. Try it baked, grilled and fried.

Dessert - This is where you can really let your colors show. Some ideas include patriotic parfaits, a patriotic sundae, or red, white and blue ice creams or sorbets. Won’t be using a cooler? Try making a blueberry cobbler topped with strawberries and whipped cream, or bite-size cheesecake squares with blueberries and pitted cherries.